solarbird: (Default)

Lena Oxton leaned back on the outcropping atop the crest of the ridge of the old volcano on a cool and clear January day in the Aeolian archipelago north of Sicily. Through the aviator's glasses Tavi had brought her from the mainland, she could see Filicudi easily, to the east; beyond, the trio of Salina, Lipari, and, just visible if she squinted and told herself so, Vulcano, ever-active, roiling just before the dawn.

But her attention, mostly, focused higher. Airplanes crossed the skies around her, red-eyes from Nairobi, Numbani, Johannesburg, sometimes even overhead, mostly civilian, but occasionally, a military transport, and, very occasionally, what looked to the pilot's eyes to be training flights, probably out of the old joint forces base near Naples. "Pad your angle there, cadet," she'd say, quietly, remembering her instructor's calm voice on comms. "You're not that good yet."

But she was. And she knew it, which made it worse.

She came here more often, these days, to watch the skies and think. She was healed. She knew it. The doc had said so, yesterday morning, but Lena made up a bit of stiffness to try to delay full clearance. Why'd I do that?, the pilot thought to herself. I'm ready. I can go home. I had a life, five months ago. I could have it back.

Dark blues and reds yielded to bright blues and yellows as the stars slowly went out, overwhelmed by the new morning sun. Sure, she thought, gaze following a cargo plane making its lazy way south, Overwatch is shuttered, but I've still got my commission and my license. I can get 'em reactivated. I wasn't even around when things fell apart. They'd do me right, I know they would. She focused upwards into the bright blue morning.

I miss the sky.

She somersaulted forward, leapt up, and teleported three times, as high as she could, witnesses be damned, out over the steep slope to the sea. Then she fell more than glided, but pretended it was otherwise, until the ground came up too close, and she rewound time, back up to the top of the volcano, safe and sound.

Though I gotta admit... she thought, beaming, shivering in the rush of cortisol, norepinephrine, and adrenaline, as her body reacted to what her lizard brain was pretty sure had to be imminent death, That's pretty great too.

A private jet flew by, closer than she'd like, pilot possibly attracted by the flashes of light. Fuck it, she thought, and waved briskly at the flyer, shouting, "Heya!" at the top of her lungs. In reaction, or not, it turned away. It's time people know I'm alive.

-----

"I need to go," the pilot told the assassin, abruptly, after their daily combat workout.

Amélie, facing her own locker, stopped, mid-motion, momentarily, then resumed dressing. "I had expected that." She put her right arm through her uniform's sleeve. The words felt leaden in her mouth as she continued, "I'd thought it would come sooner, but, still, here it is." Turning to look at the pilot, she said, almost sadly, "I agree."

Now, Lena's turn to be a little surprised, and almost a little hurt. "...you do?" as she pulled a blouse over her head, the fabric falling down over the dimly glowing blue stripes of her chronal accelerator-interlaced ribcage.

"I do. Dr. Mariani cleared you yesterday morning, I know. Sombra, I also know, would like to have another set of data off your accelerator, if you are willing, but this can be arranged quickly - just a couple of days."

Inexplicably disappointed, the pilot said crossly, "Why? Is this your 'strands of history' again?"

"Would you feel better, or worse, if I said no?"

"I'd say... really?"

The assassin shook her head, a slight nod. "I am not an oracle; I do not see all. This is an emotion, a feeling. Also, I do not think you are yet ready to join us."

Tracer pursed her lips, acknowledging the truth in it. "No. I'm not."

"I understand," said the spider. "I..." she took a long, deep breath. "I have never lied to you, and I will not begin now: I want you here. I want you on my side. But only with a whole heart, and," she waved a finger back and forth, like a metronome, "you have nothing like that at all."

"I'm a fighter pilot, luv. I need the sky."

"You are more than that now," said the spider, pointedly, "and you know it."

That disquieted the Flying Officer in some way she couldn't quite define, because she couldn't quite deny it, not completely. "I've got a few extra tricks, sure. But I'm still a pilot. Flying was always my dream, and defending the world from the air - that was my life. Your way..." she sighed, and ran a towel through her hair. "I've got to get my life back. I get your way now. I don't know I agree with it, but I get it. I just don't think it's mine."

Widowmaker slid her emotional range down, down, down, for now, but it still hurt more than she wanted. Nonetheless, she stabilised, as always. "The next ferry to Filicudi - and from there, to Sicily - departs tomorrow. If you want to be there, you can be. But I would not recommend this route; we have made arrangements, if you are willing to hear them."

"'Course you have," she smiled. "And 'course I would."

"Sombra, as I said, would like to come for a final cycle of readings from your accelerator. It will take two days for her to arrive; that will give us time to finalise our slightly more plausible route for your return, which is not by chance a return point further away. I like this facility, and would hate to lose it."

"You've thought this all out already, haven't you?"

The spider nodded, with the hint of a smile. "Of course. It is what I do; it is second - no, first, nature. The pieces are already placed."

"Huh." Tracer walked over to the eastern window, looking down the steep slope towards the sea. "You know... I'm gonna miss this island." She raised her hands, fingers against the glass. No, she thought, that's not enough. Not honest enough. "I'm gonna miss you."

Stepping up behind the smaller woman, Amélie asked, softly, "Will you then do me the honour of a going-away dinner, Ms. Oxton? Not here; there is a particularly discreet café I quite like on Salina, in Rinella. I think you'd like it, too."

Tracer looked back over her shoulder, with her famous half-grin, and said, "You askin' me on a date, luv?"

"Would you feel better, or worse, if I said yes?" asked the blue woman.

"Better," answered the pilot. "Definitely, much better."

solarbird: (Default)

This isn't Greece, thought the pilot, through the haze of shimmering blue and red and rapidly fading sedation. It... smells wrong.

She tried to open her eyes, and to a partial degree, succeeded. The sunlight from the window didn't exactly hurt her eyes, but it didn't feel right either. That's wrong too. She closed her eyes again, tried to think. The Slipstream felt fine. Felt normal. Good flight weather, dry, cool. Ground control confirmed go. Then...

...then blue and red and blue and red and red and blue and blue and explosions and flashes and flashes and flashes and so many flashes and grey and blue and red and even that woman looked blue, she looked familiar though, even at a glance, then the medics, they didn't look familiar though, then numbers and names and a sedative and black and now still more blue and more red, but not as much, and everything feels so fuzzy...

Everything, except the... bandages. Bandages make sense. But those could feel a little more fuzzy.

"È svegli.li.lia. Prendiendiendi i medico," said... someone. Medico. I got that part. Doctor. In Italian. She tried to speak, it came out strange, garbled, distorted. This must be some sedative. "It's o.o.o.kay, p.ot, l.ill, t. .tor is coming." Accent. That accent. Sicilian. "Sicily?" she tried to say, it coming out stuttery and strange, like the words she heard, though her thoughts felt mostly clear. "What's wrong with me, doc?" No better.

Doctor Mariani knocked on the door almost as Oxton spoke, but didn't stop on the way in. Lena forced open her eyes, keeping them open, seeing waving red and blue and shimmers around everything, but the pilot recognised the medic nonetheless. She said something to another woman, who had already rushed to a piece of hardware by her bed. The blurring and phasing briefly became much worse, and Lena shouted and lurched and felt a little sick, making her hurt all at once all over. Ow! Ribs? Leg? Arm? Ow! and there was a

[snap]

"How's that?" said a suddenly very clearly Hispanic-accented voice.

"Much better, I think," said the grey-haired woman she had not realised was beside her, holding her arm. Lena flinched, as the older woman asked, "Let's ask our pilot. Can you understand me? How're you doing?"

Lena Oxton blinked, confusedly, finding herself sitting up, finding surprise at the stability of... everything. "That was... strange. What'd you give me?"

Dr. Mariani smiled. "Good! If strange is the worst of it, amico, you are doing very well. But lean back, please, your physical condition are not so bad as they should be, but you are still, yes, it is 'pretty banged up'? Yes."

The pilot did, for once, as she was told, glad for once to have the world not moving. "What happened?"

The doctor aimed a little light in her eyes, and poked at her with various instruments, being very doctorly in a very old fashioned way. "Your airplane, do you remember? It exploded."

"Yea, I know that part, Doc - I was there. But what happened?"

"I'm Doctor Mariani, by the way. But you can call me Geanna."

"Oh, sorry, right. Flying Officer Lena Oxton. Which, I guess you know. But. What. Happened."

Dr. Mariani didn't hesitate. "Well, we got to you on the ground, got the fire out - do you remember me talking to you in the medical tent?"

"Yea, and my Slipstream exploded and somehow next thing I know I'm in a... room? and then a tent, nothing in between but... flashes..." Flashing. Images. Strange. What? she thought, suddenly anxious in new ways.

"Yes, you were, and the mind can get very confused under stress like that. It's surprising you remember all that you do. But now, here you are, and out of danger." Her voice was calm, but it didn't help.

Tracer frowned, agitatedly, adrenaline spiking all on its own. "Yea. Here I am. Ten thousand metres at Mach 3 over Greece and exploded, and then somehow everywhere and then somehow on the ground and indoors and now here and I'm pretty sure this is Sicily, and I don't know how any of that works but I didn't even black out and I know what blacking out feels like, and something feels wrong and you're not talking about it and I want to know why and..."

The smaller woman working with the strange device next to her on the bed delinked a display and said, "I've got my numbers, I'm out of here" and exercised what appeared to the agitated Flying Officer to be the better part of valour, as the doctor continued, "You shake off sedatives very quickly, don't you?" said the doctor. "But the mind plays tricks, and it's difficult to explain..."

"...no, no, no, everything is shimmery and strange except when it's not and nothing personal doc but your bedside manner is terrible and what is going on?! and..."

"Just tell her," came another voice, French-accented, from the doorway past Dr. Mariani. "If she wants to rush headlong into this, too, then, so be it."

"Woah!" said Tracer, locking on to the voice, as the woman joined the doctor at the right side of her hospital bed.

The woman offered a cool, blue hand. "Hello, Ms. Oxton. We've met before, I believe, a few times."

"You..." The pilot's racing thoughts caught a bit of grip. "...are you blue? You, I mean, I think, do I know you, I think so, but not blue, are you really blue? I thought that was the... what is going on?!" But, shakily, she reached out as well.

Widowmaker laughed, a little, almost delighted, and took Tracer's hand in her own. "You do remember me! I'm flattered. My name is Amélie Lacroix, and I am, really, blue."

This did little to reduce the pilot's confusion, though the one clear thought in her head - my god, she's beautiful - was straightforward enough. "...why? How?"

"That," she smiled, "is a long story." Then, more sombrely, she held Lena's hand more tightly, and - looking directly into the pilot's eyes, her own clear and open - she said, "But, first, what has happened."

"It has been five years since your Slipstream failed, throwing you completely out of normal time in the explosion. You were gone, without a trace, and Overwatch presumed you lost. But Winston, he felt you might still be alive, and might yet be saved. And though he built a retrieval device, he was not allowed to try."

Not allowed to...?!, thought the pilot.

The assassin continued. "Overwatch was shut down a year later; it no longer exists. You are in my organisation's medical station in Italy, where we transported you, after pulling you back into real time using Winston's mostly-completed chronal accelerator, which was destroyed in the process. We are still making adjustments to our own version, calibrating it, so you do not disappear on us again. That is why you're feeling so fuzzy, and why everything - in addition of me - has a bit of red or blue to it."

She took a breath.

"And many things have changed while you have been gone."

solarbird: (tracer)
Nobody expected a fireball. Or screaming, or the containment chamber suddenly exploding. But it all happened nonetheless when flame, fragments of metal, silicates, plastics, and the distinct tang of burning jet fuel showered the interior of the small building.

And then a small woman in a flight suit collapsed onto the scorched floor. "Get it on her!" shouted the hacker, retrieving the second chronal accelerator from the bench behind her, throwing it towards Amélie, already there, who slapped it onto the body just as it began to shift to red.

The figure solidified, the flight suit suddenly Overwatch blue and grey and still a bit too much red, but with blood.

Mon dieu, elle est en vie! thought the assassin, as she and the medic, Taviano, pulled the young pilot - and freshly-minted accelerator - from the smoking remnants of had been a containment chamber, onto a stretcher. "What happened?!" she shouted, as the medic ripped away the shredded flight shield and threw on an oxygen mask.

░░░░░░ grabbed a fire extinguisher, swearing, spraying down equipment, "I dunno, but get her out of here, I'll take care of this little problem."

The assassin, medic, and pilot were already out the door, moving towards the emergency aid unit set up the previous night. "Vitals are good," the medic told Dr. Mariani, who nodded, "Keep an eye on lung function and blood oxygenation levels, let's get her on the table" - she grabbed the stretcher - "tre, due, uno, hup!"

It didn't take three people to lift the small woman, but three were involved nonetheless. "Thank you, Amélie - now let us do our jobs." The assassin nodded once, and backed away. "Let's get this flight suit off - can you hear me, pilot?"

Tracer's eyes snapped open, and she looked around wildly. The doctor looked at Taviano - "Sedativo pronto?" - "Sì." Buona, she thought. "Pilot, the slipstream you were flying exploded, but we have you on the ground now. I'm Doctor Mariani, I'm a field medic. Do you understand?"

The pilot's eyes locked on the doctor's, and she nodded, blinking.

"We're going to give you a little sedative while we check you out, and then we're going to transfer you to a medical unit. Do you know your name?"

Through the mask, a garbled, strained, but understandable response: "Lena. Lena Oxton."

"How many fingers am I holding up?" She held up three, and Tracer's answer was correct. Occhi non dilatati? Non c'è concussione? The mediscanner verified - no concussion. Che era un buon casco.

"You're very lucky pilot, Lena. Here comes the sedative."

Inside the building, ░░░░░░ put out the last of the fires, mostly caused by flaming debris from the chamber. Now, what the hell was that about? Everything was fine until the fire attacked... Flames doused, she opened the second door behind the bench to clear the remaining stink of jet fuel.

"Oh." she said aloud, getting it all at once, as Amélie marched back into the building. "Nique ta mère, what went wrong?"

░░░░░░ laughed, filled with the delight of success, and the assassin glared evilly. "This is not a good time to be laughing."

"Nothing happened! Well, nothing we shouldn't have expected, anyway." She swept debris off her chair and plopped down with what was left of Winston's original device, poking at it and flipping between screens of data in the air. "It was perfección! We all just forgot something very obvious."

Lacroix narrowed her eyes, smelling the jet fuel again. "...the slipstream exploded."

░░░░░░ nodded, grinning. "...when the field generator failed, sending her out of time, along with the explosion in progress around her."

"C’est le bazar."

"Hey, you're just lucky you hired me. Someone not as good might've brought back the whole thing, and then we'd all be in that tent."

She gestured. "But, don't keep me in suspense - how is she?"

Amélie Lacroix exhaled, slowly. "Alive."

July 2017

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